If you are considering selling a business at some point in the near future, it is important to get it into shape to reap the maximum return on your investment. Here are five strategies experts recommend. The best part: None of these will be wasted efforts if you reconsider selling, because all will make your business stronger.
Protect your intellectual property.
This can help you amp up the value of your business, but it’s not always a speedy process, so plan ahead. “If you need to get a patent for something, that’s something you need to consider very early in the process,” said Tatiana Melnik, an attorney in Tampa, Fla., who works with both start-ups and established businesses. “Spend the time trademarking your company name. Get copyright protection for whatever you are developing. All of that has value.”
Sometimes owners who do this discover that they have been infringing on the trademark of another business unwittingly. You’ll be much better off if you find out early and fix the situation before you’re in talks with a buyer. “A lot of times people don’t find out until they’re considering selling,” Melnik said.
Make sure the business isn’t dependent on you.
A business that depends heavily on the presence of one person to succeed—such as a creative services business where clients are paying for your personal talent or expertise—can be very difficult to sell to another buyer. “Generally, if your business relies less on the owner, you get a higher selling price,” said Jock Purtle, a broker of Internet businesses who runs Digital Exits, a Sydney, Australia–based firm that does 90 percent of its deals in the U.S. “If the operations are managed by staff or systems or technology and there’s less day-to-day importance of the owner, you’re going to get a higher price.”